the slopes because the price of a ski trip makes you
feel a little bit faint? Snap. When you tot it all up – chalet,
equipment, clothes, lift passes, dinner and enough pocket money for
après adventures – whizzing down a few runs over the winter can
quickly become a rather expensive hobby.
Head beyond North America’s glitziest snow haunts, though, and
you’ll find a fair few mountain destinations offering high-altitude
holidays at prices that won’t make you dizzy. They may not have the
booze-fuelled après scene of Aspen, or the Moncler-clad crowds of Deer
Valley, but that’s all part of the laid-back allure. From Colorado
to New Mexico, these budget US ski resorts offer mountains of fun
without a sky-high price tag.
On-piste, on-budget: the most affordable US ski resorts
Grand Targhee, Wyoming
Best for: powder obsessives
Skip the visiting Kardashians and million-dollar log cabins of
Jackson Hole; neighbouring Grand Targhee offers small-town vibes,
home-cooked meals and cute independent chalets. Don’t let the
unassuming offering deceive you, though – this is a top-class ski
resort. With over 12m of snowfall a year, the fresh powder count
kicks its A-list neighbour’s – at 25 per cent less – to the kerb.
Ski south towards Peaked Mountain for immaculately groomed slopes,
which, on a clear day, promise views over the Grand Teton.
Best for: canny pro skiers
Beginners beware: Breckenridge Mountain Resort is known for its
notoriously devilish downhills, with over 50 per cent of its ski
trails made up of single or double black diamond runs. For those
confident on their skis, however, this five-mountain town really
delivers. The flat fee for all-day slope access to the resort’s 155
runs comes in at a pretty modest £150, including lift fees
(although, if you’re planning multiple trips, we’d recommend buying
yourself an annual Epic Pass, allowing access to slopes across the
US, and costing from just £700). The town itself – all Wild West
architecture cloaked beneath snow drifts – is home to The Bivvi Hostel, where rooms are brightly
decorated and represent great value for money. Another bonus? It’s
just five minutes from the chairlift that will take you up to Peak
10’s rugged terrain and multi-mogul downhills.
Ski Apache, New Mexico
Best for: sun-seeking freestylers
Did someone say warm-weather skiing? We’re in. Some 300km south
of Albuquerque, in the Sierra Blanca Mountains, the most
southernmost ski resort in the US promises good snow, blue skies –
and burnt noses (so pack that Supergoop sunscreen). Half-day lift
tickets cost just £44 during the week, providing access to 55 runs,
of which most are intermediate level. Keen to practise your Eileen
Gu freestyle? Head to the terrain park for jumps, tubes and rails.
The condos at nearby Ruidoso River Resort are basic but
budget-friendly – and you’ll get a discount if you show your
pass when paying.
Mount Bachelor, Oregon
Best for: savvy snowboarders
Move over, Aspen and Vail. Despite having some of the best
snowfall in the Cascades, the Pacific Northwest’s largest ski area
is something of state secret. Portland powder hounds head up here
to tackle 101 named runs, which – thanks to ancient lava flows –
roll over gullies and into wind lips, making for a frisky downhill
descent. Snowboarders should head to the advanced trails, which
weave between old-growth forests and down subalpine bowls.There’s
no on-resort lodging; instead, bed down at LOGE Bend,
a laid-back motel equipped with ski lockers, hammocks in bedrooms
and an outdoor Jacuzzi in which to soak sore ski legs.
Bristol Mountain, New York
Best for: economical NYC escapees
New Yorkers wanting to let loose on the slopes have been heading
to upstate Bristol Mountain since 1964 – and the prices at this
Finger Lakes resort haven’t budged much since then. A £53 day pass
gives plenty of bang for your buck, offering access to 39
well-maintained runs that cater to nursery-slope novices and black
diamond beasts alike. The small scale of the resort works in its
favour; it’s the perfect high-mountain retreat for urbanites
seeking snow, ski and schnapps. A resort-wide night ski scene
ensures extra hours on the slopes (at no extra cost), too. Back at
base, swap happy hour for Belgian waffles smothered in local maple
syrup at Morning Star Café, then retreat to the 1795 Acorn Inn.
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Best for: indie-loving daredevils
Albuquerque meets the Alps in this sun-soaked ski valley
cocooned by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Powder hounds will
want to lay fresh tracks at Kachina Peak or chase chutes down
Honeysuckle – the valley’s longest downhill. Al’s Run, meanwhile,
is a daunting introduction to Taos skiing – if you’ve only just mastered
parallel turns, you might want to sit this one out and head to
award-winning The Bavarian Restaurant instead. Thankfully,
it’s just the slopes that are steep in Taos; Pilsner and bratwurst
prices in its myriad eateries and watering holes have stayed low.
New lifts, an airline and an 80-room hotel at the base (called
The Blake) have elevated the resort’s offering in recent years,
but prices remain competitive and ski lift prices are still low.
Swerve The Blake and check into the less beautiful but less pricey
Taos Valley Lodge.
Powder Mountain, Utah
Best for: nostalgic snow bunnies
Pow Mow flies under the radar for most US skiers,
despite offering the largest skiable terrain in the whole of the
US. Crowds are kept to a minimum via a closely controlled release
of just 1,500 lift tickets a day – so don’t worry about sliding
into any fellow skiers when you hit one of the 154 mountain runs.
The quiet slopes add to the chilled-out atmosphere – lifts are
old-school and there’s very little in the way of nightlife or
slopeside dining. Keeping it basic keeps the ticket prices down, so
if you’re looking for a low-key, straight-to-the-slopes ski
experience, this is where to find it.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Best for: hardcore hair-raisers
A world away from Aspen, Crested Butte bills itself as “Colorado’s last
great ski town”. The downtown area looks like the front of a
Christmas card, lifts remain relatively empty even in peak season,
and 80 per cent of its 121 trails are suited to intermediate
skiers. The rest? They’re reserved for hardcore hair-raisers
looking to race down 900m vertical drops. Après is best enjoyed at
Distillers – which makes its own small-batch rum from
Louisiana-grown sugar cane – followed by a burrito (ideal
post-mountain fodder) at Bonez. Staying in The Lodge at Mountaineer Square means you won’t
have to lug your kit more than a few metres; it’s right on the Red
Lady lift’s doorstep.
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